Context: India has the world’s largest youth population, with 354 million people aged between 15 and 29. This number accounts for 27 per cent of the total population, compared to a figure of 23 per cent for China. Moreover, while 26 per cent of youth in India are neither in employment nor education, between 2012 and 2022 an estimated over 8 million additional young persons will join the labour force annually.
As in other countries, unemployment is higher among youth than the general population. In 2011-2012, the youth unemployment rate stood at 5.9 per cent for young males and 6.6 for young females, compared to 2.2 and 2.5 per cent among men and women aged 15 to 59. In those years, youth unemployment was higher in urban than rural areas; in the former, 9.3 per cent of young males and 13.8 per cent of young females were unemployed, and in the latter the figures were 5.6 and 4.8 per cent, respectively. Although there are no official statistics on the matter, youth unemployment is particularly acute among young people with disabilities.
Implementation of programme/ initiative: YOUTH4JOBS (Y4J) was established in 2012 with the goal of training youth with disabilities (speech and/or hearing impaired, locomotor impaired, and low vision or blind) to enhance their chances to secure inclusive jobs. Every year, Y4J trains around 2,500 youth with disabilities across 18 cities in 11 states around India. Currently, Y4J has 18 centres located in metropolitan areas, but most trainees originate from rural areas. The organization partners with stakeholders and vulnerable communities to create inclusive workplaces. Y4J also offers to companies corporate sensitization workshops, accessibility audits and work place adaptations to ensure that youth with disabilities who are hired become productive and efficient.
Establishment of new training centres is demand-driven through requests from state governments or NGOs. Y4J partners with local NGOs working on disability that meet Y4J values. Partnering NGOs offer infrastructure support, while Y4J provides skills training. Y4J also works with industry associations and carries out advocacy programmes among their members.
The operational budget of Y4J in 2016 amounted to US$ 400,000; this was funded by corporate and institutional donors, including The American India Foundation, Axis Bank Foundation, Capgemini India Private Ltd., Australian Council for Private Education & Training, AmeriCares India Foundation, and Tech Mahindra Foundation. In 2017, Y4J activities were awarded as “Innovative Practice on Employment, Work and Vocational Education and Training” by Zero Project.
Main challenges: The Y4J programme faces several challenges. First, reaching out to youth with disabilities is not easy, as they are spread out geographically. This issue is compounded by resistance, stigma and/or discrimination among the families of youth with disabilities. Girls are frequently kept hidden in their homes, as disability is often viewed as a curse, and concerns exist that they may not find a good groom. In addition, government programmes still favour subsidization for youth with disabilities over integration into inclusive workplaces. Likewise, companies often discriminate and/or are reluctant to hire youth with disabilities because lack of awareness.
Results achieved: Since inception, Y4J has trained around 10,000 youth with disabilities, 35 per cent of whom are young females, and has expanded from 1 to 11 states. During the last 5 years, over 500 companies have employed youth with disabilities trained in Y4J centres; 200 of these firms were first-tire hirers of peoples with disabilities. Surveys and impact studies of Y4J’s work show a 15 per cent productivity increase in the manufacturing sector when companies hired youth with disabilities.
The work of Y4J has been recognized by Union and state governments and the Founder of Y4J, Ms. Meera Shenoy is a member of the “Sector Skill Council of Persons with Disability” of the Government of India. Y4J activities have been featured in Harvard Business Review and Stanford Social Innovation Research. A recent book by Ms. Shenoy (“You Can Be Smarter and Wiser”), with a foreword by the Union Minister of State Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, has also helped to disseminate Y4J’s work. In addition, Y4J was commissioned by Boston Consulting to elaborate a report on inclusion of youth with disabilities.
Moving Forward: Over the next five years, Y4J plans to train 15,000 youth with disabilities, with a 60-70 per cent placement rate in private sector companies. Within the same period, the organization also plans to expand the number of centres up to 25-30. Expansion will be achieved through knowledge transfer to other NGOs, as successfully done in Nagpur, Ahmednagar and Pondicherry. Y4J will add learning centres for visual impairment (blindness) and increase its training portfolio. For example, a pilot for training beauticians has begun with the NGO Godrej as a partner. Y4J plans to conduct studies on the creation of inclusive working places in new sectors, like the automobile industry and banking.
Y4J also aims to sensitize 1 million community members on ability in disability by 2020. The organization plans to strengthen its partnerships with industry associations to further its role as a one-stop focal point for companies seeking to build inclusive workplaces. Y4J also plans to expand it outreach programme with local Chambers of Commerce.
Replicability: Public dissemination of the good practices and lessons learned from Y4J through books and mass media has contributed to the consolidation, sustainability and expansion of Y4J’s model. This model is in the process of being replicated by the Global Rainbow Foundation (GRF), one of the most respected organizations in the field of disability in the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius. Y4J will partner with GRF in the customization of the model in Mauritius, following meetings with firms, government officials and other local civil society organizations working in the field of disability. From June 2017 onwards, Y4J and GRF plan to open 4 training centres in Mauritius and reach out to at least 100 youth with disabilities. Y4J will also conduct sensitization workshops in 20 companies across Mauritius. Many of these companies will be first-time hirers of youth with disabilities.
ILO Country Office in India
Official Youth4Jobs web links:
Highlight of Youth4Jobs in Harvard Business Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review and Zero Project’s web site,
This good practice was kindly prepared by Dr. Antonio Postigo
Date: April 24, 2017